Designing efficient office buildings with visual appeal: Codes and standards

Office buildings can be highly complex, with complicated features and advanced technology that must comply with codes and standards. Experienced engineers share advice on how to handle these structures and identify trends impacting such structures now and in the future.


Jason Gerke Mechanical & Plumbing Group Manager, GRAEF, Milwaukee. Courtesy: GRAEFJames Hansen, PE, BEMP, LEED AP, Principal and Senior Mechanical Engineer, GHT Ltd., Arlington, Va. Courtesy: GHT Ltd.Tyler Jensen, PE, LEED AP, Senior Associate, Environmental Systems Design, Inc. Chicago. Courtesy: ESDJohn Yoon, PE, LEED AP, Lead Electrical Engineer, McGuire Engineers Inc., Chicago. Courtesy: McGuire Engineers Inc.


The 2112 Pennsylvania Avenue project is an 11-story, 250,000-sq-ft trophy Class A commercial office building in Washington, D.C. GHT Ltd. provided MEP engineering design, energy modeling, and LEED documentation services on the project. Features include 1st-floor retail, a fitness center, and other amenities. Courtesy: SkanskaCSE: Please explain some of the codes, standards, and guidelines you commonly use during the design process. Which codes/standards should engineers be most aware of in their design of engineered systems in office building projects?

Gerke: As a mechanical engineer, ASHRAE standards are always on my mind as a benchmark of good design. While codes may not require the use of ASHRAE standards, it is this engineer's opinion that those standards should be looked at the industry standard of care. What better set of standards to point to if there is ever an issue with a building you designed? Most of these standards are focused on occupied buildings, which include office spaces. Besides ASHRAE, we typically see International Code Council (ICC) sections ranging from the International Building Code and International Mechanical Code to the IECC. There are many other ICC codes that are adopted in many jurisdictions throughout the United States.

CSE: What are some best practices to ensure that such buildings meet and exceed codes and standards?

Gerke: ASHRAE offers advanced energy design guides for a number of building types that can be downloaded for free. These are excellent technical resources that provide guidance on methods to reduce energy use. Consider using carbon dioxide sensors, vacancy sensors, and other occupant-sensing technology to reduce energy use in unoccupied spaces. Also, consider methods that may be used to verify airflow volume, temperature, and humidity at the system level and in building spaces. Verifying these parameters will ensure that code requirements are being met and only the necessary setpoints of the system flow or temperature are met, instead of overshooting in these areas due to a lack of sensors with output to an HVAC control system.

CSE: How are codes, standards, or guidelines for energy efficiency impacting the design of such buildings?

Jensen: Energy code prescriptive requirements for building envelopes are becoming increasingly stringent. Office building owners and architects want highly glazed facades, but it is now very difficult to comply with energy codes using the trade-off method for envelope compliance. This means that the mechanical systems must be designed to offset the envelope, and office buildings must use the energy-cost budget method to demonstrate code compliance, performing a whole-building dynamic energy model.

Gerke: One of the ways that codes, standards, and guidelines are affecting how we design buildings is the requirement for verification of conditions through building control systems. This could be the requirement in some jurisdictions for reporting energy use, verification of airflow or space temperatures to meet standards, or other control system design guidelines. Using automation systems in buildings will continue to increase to facilitate immediate control and access to trend data to prove system performance.

Consulting-Specifying Engineer's Product of the Year (POY) contest is the premier award for new products in the HVAC, fire, electrical, and...
Consulting-Specifying Engineer magazine is dedicated to encouraging and recognizing the most talented young individuals...
The MEP Giants program lists the top mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection engineering firms in the United States.
Sizing water pipes, ASHRAE 90.1, recovering waste heat, and more
Developing lighting solutions; Designing lighting systems; Integrating fire alarm and HVAC systems
Exploring fire pumps and systems; Lighting energy codes; Salary survey; Changes to NFPA 20
Knowing when and how to use parallel generators
Power system design for high-performance buildings; mitigating arc flash hazards
Transformers; Electrical system design; Selecting and sizing transformers; Grounded and ungrounded system design, Paralleling generator systems
As brand protection manager for Eaton’s Electrical Sector, Tom Grace oversees counterfeit awareness...
Amara Rozgus is chief editor and content manager of Consulting-Specifier Engineer magazine.
IEEE power industry experts bring their combined experience in the electrical power industry...
Michael Heinsdorf, P.E., LEED AP, CDT is an Engineering Specification Writer at ARCOM MasterSpec.
Automation Engineer; Wood Group
System Integrator; Cross Integrated Systems Group
Fire & Life Safety Engineer; Technip USA Inc.
This course focuses on climate analysis, appropriateness of cooling system selection, and combining cooling systems.
This course will help identify and reveal electrical hazards and identify the solutions to implementing and maintaining a safe work environment.
This course explains how maintaining power and communication systems through emergency power-generation systems is critical.
click me